Ed Driscoll

The Paper Holds Their Folded Faces To The Floor

Interesting look at politics and residential density over at TCS Daily, by Patrick Cox:

A partnership, maybe even symbiosis, developed over time between the Democratic Party and the MSM. By the Vietnam era, journalists were doing the heavy lifting for the Democratic Party, puzzling out politically profitable angles and prompting politicians with precisely loaded questions. Liberal politicians got their “talking points” daily from the headlines and lead stories of the MSM and the DNC could focus on fundraising.

For ideologically grounded conservatives and libertarians, it was infuriating; the undecided swing vote could be swayed and Democrats prospered. Already, however, things had begun to change.

Technology and the Paperboy

Telephones, when they finally came to rural America lowered the cost of rural news collection. The shift of advertising expenditures from radio to television created low cost distribution opportunities for red state radio commentators.

And then, of course, along came the Internet, which is taking, at an increasing rate, market and advertising revenues away from newspapers and their colleagues in radio and television. Today, the cost of production and delivery of online news has plummeted; witness Matt Drudge, TCS Daily and the blogosphere. The balance of power has shifted as anybody with a modem can now self-publish or seek out news and commentary according to individual tastes, needs and preferences. Paperboys hardly matter anymore.

In the short run, these changes have been of tremendous benefit to the formerly underserved political right — the red state people. It is not, however, simply that they now have some outlets that are respectful of their views. The right has the enormous benefit of decades of frustration with the MSM neglect and mischaracterization of their perspectives. Conservatives and libertarians had been talking back to their televisions and growling at newspapers for most of their lives, and still haven’t got over the exhilaration of finding news sources that publish the debates they were having privately.

Liberals, however, were spared the best conservative arguments by editors who didn’t like or understand them. Nodding at Walter Cronkite’s and Dan Rather’s interpretation of events, the left was lulled into the complacency of consensus in a world where consensus did not truly exist. The few alternative voices, hidden on the pages of mostly liberal editorial pages, were easy to dismiss as irrelevant or extremist.

Today, you can see this lack of familiarity with the fine points of public debate clearly as Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi continue to act as if they were living inside the old ideological news monopoly. It is why Democrats thought they could specifically contradict themselves on Iraq policy and expect not to be called on it. In the old days, they wouldn’t have been — except in the slow to arrive albeit brilliant monthlies and bi-monthlies like National Review and Reason, typically read only by cadres. (Both publications now have a robust web presence to compliment the dead tree publications).

The Situation Is Changing Again

The Bush administration, however, has been masterful in its use of the new media. Schooled by years of exclusion and disdain, they have consistently played ideological “ropeadope” until their own constituency is begging for a response, and unchecked liberals have taken their arguments over the edge into parody.

This MSM embargo of non-liberal ideas has led, as well, to a more effective Internet presence for the right, and is seen clearly in the differences between the two most important of the partisans, Instapundit and the Daily Kos. I don’t think it would be too controversial to say that Glenn Reynolds is more gracious toward his detractors as well as more interested in building consensus on controversial issues than are Kos and his readers.

And as Michael Barone noted a year ago:

What hath the blogosphere wrought? The left blogosphere has moved the Democrats off to the left, and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans